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Spring Clean With "Greener" Cleaners

Country MoonSpring cleaning is like a holiday (except it never feels like it) — another ritual that we all do each year to varying degrees. There is something about the sun’s first warm rays tugging at us to open the windows and let the fresh air in that makes us want everything fresh and new. Thus, we start sprucing up all the nooks and crannies. Guys might even rearrange the garage, sweep out the workshop, or put away the tools with which they've finished up winter projects. Spring is a time of renewal, and we want our homes, barns, garages, offices, and vehicles to be clean and fresh.

So this year, why not give spring cleaning a spruce up, too? Many of us have cleaned up our diet and tried to get away from chemicals and eat more naturally. Why not also get rid of the harsh chemicals that we have always used to clean? Maybe it’s time for greener cleaners made with simple products that we have on hand.

I know I have touched on this subject a little before, but I would like to share a list of do-it-yourself natural cleaners that was published in the April edition of Prevention Magazine. Following are the best combinations for safe and efficient scrubbing that won’t ruin your health haven:

• LINOLEUM, TILE, AND VINYL FLOOR CLEANER: Mix 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/4 natural liquid soap, 20 drops tea tree essential oil, and 20 drops orange essential oil. Add two gallons of hot water and mop away.

• BATHTUB AND TILE CLEANER: Sprinkle sinks, tubs, and showers with baking soda, then scrub. For stains that need a little more “oomph,” make a paste of baking soda and water. Cover the troublesome spot, let set for a half-hour, then sponge off. If you are trying to eliminate germs or mold, spray a solution of 10 percent vinegar and 90 percent water. Let it set 30 minutes and then rinse off.

• WINDOW, MIRROR, AND GLASS CLEANER: Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle, spray on glass surfaces, and wipe with a clean cloth. Rubbing a little on your eyeglasses also cleans them.

• DRAIN DECLOGGER: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into clogged drain, then slowly add 1/2 cup vinegar. Let set for 30 minutes then flush with hot water.

• OVEN CLEANER: Fill a deep, oven-proof pan with water, place on rack, and warm until steam softens the baked on grease. After the oven cools, make a paste of equal parts salt, baking soda, and vinegar and use as a scrub.

• DISHWASHER POWDER: Combine 2 cups washing soda, 1 cup baking soda, and 1 cup borax, and store in a tight container. To use, add about 2 tabelspoons to the soap compartment of the dishwasher. If residue builds up on glassware, reduce to 1-1/2 tablespoons. "Washing soda" and "soda ash" are common names for sodium carbonate. It is a caustic base, and unlike baking soda it is not edible, should not be inhaled, and can damage eyes if they come into contact with it. Use caution. If you cannot find washing soda, you can make your own by pouring a 1/2-inch or more layer of baking soda in a baking dish, baking at 400 F for an hour, and stirring occasionally until it changes in look and feel.

• LAUNDRY DETERGENT: Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a sauce pan, add 1/2 cup soap flakes or plain bar soap gratings, and stir until the soap melts. Pour the melted soap into a large glass jar or jug and add 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup washing soda. Stir or shake well until everything dissolves, then add 2 quarts warm water and stir or shake until well blended. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup for each load, shaking before each use to break up clumps.

While you are doing all of your spring cleaning, there are some steps you can take to make simple cleaning part of your weekly routine. This will stop the spread of bacteria, especially in the kitchen, which tends to be the dirtiest room in the house because of raw meats and vegetables that are prepared there. Three things that can minimize the spread of bacteria in the kitchen are:

1. Disinfecting the dish sponge. After every meal, soak the sponge in a bowl of water and microwave on high until the water boils. Since there are dead spots in the microwave, the total sponge must be soaked.

2. Clean your garbage can. The bottom of the garbage can is often a home for germs thanks to leaky garbage bags and spills. Clean it with soap and water every two weeks.

3. Wipe down appliances, counters, and handles daily. Nothing gets touched more, and not always with clean hands, so daily wipe-downs will cut down on getting sick from infected surfaces.

The other dirty room in the house, of course, is the bathroom. Besides the obvious of cleaning the sink and toilet, there are a couple other things that may not cross your mind but, done periodically, will help keep you healthy.

• CHECK LABELS AND EXPIRATION DATES ON ITEMS IN THE MEDICINE CABINET: Throw out any items containing triclosan and triclocarban. These chemicals are often found in toothpaste, soap, and antibacterial cleansers. Evidence shows that they may disrupt hormones and cause muscle weakness.

• CHECK SUNSCREEN: A report from the Mayo Clinic shows that the ingredients in these that keep you safe in the sun are engineered to last no more than 3 years.

• REPLACE THAT TOOTHBRUSH: You know how time gets away? Well, sometimes toothbrushes outlast the lifetime that they were designed for. The American Dental Association recommends tossing old brushes every three months to prevent bacterial buildup.

These are just some small changes that can yield huge dividends. Anything we can do to stave off colds, flu, salmonella, and a host of other germs that make us sick is thumbs-up in my book. On top of that, especially for the cleaners, vinegar and soda are inexpensive and pack a punch when it comes to disinfecting. All in all, it is a win/win situation.

spring cleaning
Photo by Adobe Stock/Carolyn Franks